Whether you spell it whiskey or whisky, there’s a Scotch for every type of drinker. For purists and whisky devotees, there are elegant brands to drink with zero accompaniments, besides perhaps a splash of water. For the uninitiated and the open-minded, there are whisky cocktails that run the gamut from cloyingly sweet to ones that knock your teeth out.
Whatever style of drink you think you’d prefer, there’s some spirits out there for you that were made in Scotland.
Whisky Drinks for Every Taste
Next time you’re at a bar, order one of these cocktails to get a taste of whisky at its tamest (or, alternatively, at its most potent when mixed with the right ingredients).
Blood and Sand
Created in the Roaring ‘20s during Prohibition, this classic cocktail has blended Scotch, blood orange juice, sweet vermouth, and cherry brandy. It was named after a silent movie about a bullfighter.
Much like a Manhattan, a Rob Roy has sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. Unlike the Manhattan, a Rob Roy is made with Scotch. Order it straight up or on the rocks.
Best made with bourbon or rye, a Whisky Sour is an easy drinker. It has lemon juice and simple syrup or sugar, and is a good cocktail for you if you drink sparingly.
The Penicillin is a riff on a whisky sour, but it also has honey and ginger syrup added. Combine blended Scotch with the syrup and lemon juice. It might not cure your cold, but it will taste good.
Made with a sweet whisky liqueur, a Rusty Nail isn’t as harsh as it sounds. Drambuie is the standard liqueur to use, as it has honey flavor with herbs and spices. Mix it with any Scotch whisky.
You can’t mention whisky cocktails without including the Old Fashioned. Another Prohibition-era drink, this one combines bourbon or rye with Angostura bitters and sugar that have been muddled together. Unsurprisingly, this drink was invented in a speakeasy in Kentucky.
The Godfather cocktail is, of course, named for the 1970s film. To make it, combine one part Scotch whisky with one part Amaretto.
Whisky Hot Toddy
A warm and soothing drink for a cold winter night, the whisky hot toddy is a staple for sitting by the fire. Use any kind of whisky you prefer (hot toddies are also regularly made with rum or brandy). Hot water and honey combine with spices, like cinnamon or clove, and a lemon slice. Some people brew a cup of black tea and use that in place of the hot water.
The Best Whisky for Cocktails
With whisky in cocktails, there’s a bit of a catch-22: you want to use a good whisky that will add depth of flavor to your drink, but at the same time, using a good whisky is technically a “waste” in the eyes of some connoisseurs.
A good general rule of thumb to follow is to use a higher-end whisky for cocktails that highlight the liquor. Manhattans are a good example. A good whisky is complemented by the other flavors in the Manhattan, and do not overpower it.
Use a lower-rung whisky for cocktails that have a lot of ingredients, or generally overpower the taste of the whisky. When the whisky’s own flavor profile isn’t that important in the cocktail, you don’t need to use one of higher quality.
Good Whisky Brands to Drink Neat
Most whiskies can be consumed neat, or plain in a glass with no ice. In fact, it can be argued that in particular is made to be drunk neat. The flavors in scotch come out with the heat of your hand.
If you’re a new convert to whisky, you probably should start off with a cheaper bottle of something smooth. Anything in the $20-40 range should suit nicely. Go for a nice option from Speyside or a bottle from the Highlands. These will not have the robust, peaty flavor of an Islay or a Campbeltown, which may be easier to drink.
Brands from these regions include Highland Park, Scapa, The Macallan, and The Balvenie.
Scotch lovers who can’t get enough smoke in their dram should go for whisky from Islay. Laphroaig in particular boasts an incredible punch of smokiness.
As you can see, there are an incredible number of ways to drink whisky. Whether you prefer your whisky neat or creatively mixed in a cocktail, sweet and disguised or straight-up and in-your-face, there’s a whisky drink for everyone.